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February 24, 2016

Exceptions & Limitations Harm the Creation of Culture in Developing Countries

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I’ve just discovered the International Authors Forum (IAF), and I’m in love.

For one thing, IAF features prominently on their website and in their materials the critical text of Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, which states:

Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

It drives the CopyLeft and Access to Knowledge folks crazy that the key international human rights document includes intellectual property rights as a basic human right. Yes it does. They try to reconstruct the sentence sometimes to make it sound like it means the opposite of how it is written, but they’re wrong.

I’ve tried to make some hay over the years with this fact, not only writing about it, but also getting physically accosted by activists at a WIPO meeting where I dared to read out the text of Article 27 during an IPI intervention (more here). Ah, memories.

Anyway, the International Authors Forum has a great document [PDF] on their website where authors from around the world including developing countries explain how expanding copyright exceptions and limitations would be harmful to their attempts to produce cultural products in their own markets. It’s worth your time.

Some quotes:

  • “Most authors in African countries, especially those writing in indigenous languages, barely earn a living from their work. These exceptions will be an erosion of the little that they do earn and the consequence will be a decrease in locally produced content. . . . We have publishers sitting on great manuscripts because it is not commercially viable to publish them . . . . Depriving authors of the little they earn is not the way to [make educational content available to all]. - Elinor Sisulu, South Africa
  • ". . . prejudicial changes to the copyright laws are draining revenues from writers' already very thin and threadbare pockets . . . . 'free culture' — that is, freedom for consumers not to pay for cultural content." - Harry Thurston, Canada
  • "If further copyright exceptions for libraries and educational institutions are approved, I believe this will impact considerably on authors generally and on children's authors in particular — the very people whose works first opens up the world of literature for children." - Sophie Masson, Australia

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